Feeding Stray Cats

Kindhearted souls are often tempted to help stray, obviously starving animals, and this is no bad thing. However, caring for a stray, malnourished cat isn’t as simple as putting out food and water on a daily basis.

And putting out food even once seems to be an amazingly effective signal to ALL the strays in the area – you may start feeding one or two, and soon end up feeding dozens. And if your new “pride” has unneutered/unspayed members, which it undoubtedly has, your catfood bill will soon skyrocket as the population expands.

Caring for stray cats, malnourished or not, requires a two-prong approach to properly CARE for the animals. Preventing starvation is one thing, but there are other aspects of care that must be considered.

1) Deal with the immediate problem

In the first instance, provide food and water. The food should be cat food, not dog food, and if you don’t have cat food, provide meat – fish, chicken or beef. Make sure the cat has plenty of fresh, clean water too, especially if you are feeding dry cat food.

If you are in an area where wild animals are frequent visitors, you need to pick up any uneaten food at dusk. Having a regular mealtime will keep the wild visitors away, will make bonding with the cat easier and will make catching the cat (eventually) easier too. After a couple of days the cat will learn when food is available and that you are the kind provider.

If you are able and the cat is willing, try to make friends, SLOWLY working your way up to petting, then holding the cat. Even belated socializing will help the cat find a forever home – with you or elsewhere, and will allow you to determine whether the cat desperately needs a visit to the vet.

HOWEVER, if the cat shows any sign of illness, don’t try to pick the cat up. If you decide to take the cat to a vet for evaluation, use a live trap.

If the weather is cold, a bit of shelter might be a good idea too. And if you have only one cat to feed, consider adding an over-the-counter broad-spectrum wormer, designed specifically for cats – there isn’t much point feeding parasites.

2) Keep the problem from spreading

The second aspect of caring, TRUELY caring for a stray cat is making sure they are spayed or neutered at a minimum, that they are free from parasites and that they have their basic inoculations too. There are many organizations that will help with the cost of this basic medical care, as long as you can catch and transport the cat. Some of these groups have volunteers that will catch and transport the animals for you. Keep in mind that these are volunteers operating on donations, and that you may be asked to make a donation too.

If you are a truly compassionate soul and want to give the stray a permanent home, you might want to resist the urge to bring the cat into your home immediately, especially if you have other cats. Feline leukemia is a disease that can prove fatal to other cats, and a stray is quite likely to have fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites and may not understand the purpose of a litter box.

In addition, a new cat needs to be carefully introduced, and a stray cat, especially one who is not used to being indoors, may turn your happy cat family upside-down. A trip to the vet is in order, and confinement away from your original cats and the rest of your house is in order too.

The problem of stray cats and dogs has been epidemic for some time in America. Helping one cat won’t change the world, but it will make a difference for THAT cat, and getting that cat fixed will prevent hundreds of other strays from being created.

Organizations that may be able to help:

www.petfinders.com (lists rescue groups by area)